A few tennis balls later, and I was learning to juggle. I worked on it for a few hours until I had it down. Or up. Or around. Or whatever.
Once it was late enough that people my age were crawling out of bed, teenagers began to show up, and I had to actually do some other work; however, my best friend showed up, and I demonstrated my new skill. His response was something like, "That's great, but you're doing it wrong." He took the tennis balls from me and showed me the proper way of doing it, which was not around in a circle like they do it in cartoons. My reaction was something along the lines of, "Well, this is how I'm going to do it," because I wasn't going to go back and try to learn some other way of doing it.
Maybe if I'd had access to Arlee Bird, I would have learned to do it right the first time. What? You didn't know Lee could juggle? Well, now you do. And, due to the miracle of the Internet, something I didn't have back when I was in high school, here he is to tell you how to juggle!
Take it away, Lee! Or something like that...
It takes a lot of balls to be a juggler. You've got to learn to throw up and then catch what you've thrown up. Er, this is not coming out right. Let's just toss out this opening and let me start again.
Juggling is an art that incorporates the mental disciplines of math, science, and physics and blends them with the physical disciplines of movement and balance. Juggling is not difficult if you are willing to focus on what you are doing and then practice. Once it comes to you it's much like riding a bicycle or something of that nature.
Want to learn to juggle? Start by learning the basic three ball cascade pattern. This is a matter of keeping three objects moving in regular alternating arcs for a sustained period of time. You must learn to maintain a continued one, two, three waltz rhythm with the three arcs. A juggling count is very helpful in the beginning.
The first step is to master one object, preferably a ball or a spherical beanbag, tossed from one hand to the other. Learn this toss from right to left, then left to right, repeatedly without dropping and keeping the same identical arc each time. Back and forth, back and forth, until you've perfected the feel of the toss and the catch.
When the first arc is mastered, then start with a ball in each hand. Focusing on the arcs, toss the first ball from the right hand. When that first ball reaches the peak of the arc and begins to descend toss up the ball in the left hand in an equal arc, but not on a collision course with the first. Repeat over and over until the movement comes naturally.
As you continue the alternating passing of the two objects between your hands, begin to imagine the third object becoming a part of the pattern. Now instead of the one-two repetition of throws, think of the one-two-three rhythm with the two objects and one imaginary object. After the tosses, the hand movements, and the rhythm are ingrained in your mind you can add in the third ball.
The visualization should have helped, but the actual third object might be intimidating and confusing at first. The main thing is don't give up and keep that waltz rhythm in your mind. In the basic juggling pattern your hand and arm movements remain the same and the arcs of the objects should also be repetitive. Juggling is like music.
I recommend that you practice over a bed so you don't have to chase balls or bend over too much. You will be picking up dropped objects a lot at first. Juggling is good exercise, but in the learning process it might be more exercise than you'd want. Your focus on the juggling pattern will also be better if you aren't chasing objects all over the room.
After you've essentially mastered the basic pattern you will be ready to experiment with more arcs, heights, speeds, and other pattern variations. And don't forget the essential rule when performing your new skill before an audience: If you drop something just keep going and act as though it was meant to be. Learning the skill of recovery is one of the most essential components in a jugglers bag of tricks.
Now go learn to juggle! There are many healthy benefits for mind and body. You might even be able to pick up a few bucks juggling on the street for tips.